UPMC Physician Resources

UPMC Expands Reach in Italy with Outpatient Diagnostic Center

PITTSBURGH, June 6, 2014 – Adding to its successful transplant and cancer treatment facilities in Italy, UPMC announced today that it is expanding its Italian operations to include outpatient diagnostic services for liver and digestive disorders in the Region of Tuscany.

UPMC is managing and operating the new center, the UPMC Institute for Health, at the Terme di Chianciano Spa in Chianciano Terme. Located near Siena, between Florence and Rome, the facility will build on the traditional attraction of the spa’s thermal water therapies and is expected to attract patients from throughout Italy and beyond when it opens on June 9, 2014.

The new center will offer diagnostic screenings, imaging and procedures for liver and digestive disorders, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other illnesses. Patients also will be educated about personal risk factors, healthy lifestyle and diet. Those who need more advanced care may be referred to local hospitals or to other UPMC facilities in Italy, namely the ISMETT transplant hospital in Palermo and the UPMC San Pietro Cancer Center in Rome.

“Building on our long reputation for clinical excellence in Italy, we are proud to expand our high-quality services into a new region of the country,” said Charles Bogosta, president of UPMC’s International and Commercial Services Division. “This popular destination for patients will now have the only facility in the area that can offer a complete digestive check-up in a place that already draws thousands of people every year to its healing waters.”

UPMC is partnering with Terme di Chianciano, a company that operates and manages historical thermal premises in the region, as well as with the municipality and the local health care authority. UPMC is leasing and renovating the spa’s existing medical center.

“With UPMC’s clinical, scientific and management know-how and the well-established treatments of Chianciano Spa, this partnership will deliver a higher level of services to patients in one convenient location,” said Bruno Gridelli, M.D., medical and scientific director of UPMC’s International and Commercial Services Division and chief executive officer of ISMETT.

UPMC’s international footprint already includes operations or services in Italy, Ireland, India, Canada, China, Singapore, Japan and Kazakhstan. Through its international growth and commercialization efforts with industry partners, UPMC is diversifying its revenue base, fueling economic development in its communities, and strengthening its ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest clinicians who are working together to improve health care outcomes globally.

Dad’s Alcohol Consumption Could Influence Sons’ Drinking, Pitt Mouse Study Finds

PITTSBURGH, June 4, 2014 – Even before conception, a son’s vulnerability for alcohol use disorders could be shaped by a father who chronically drinks to excess, according to a new animal study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings, published online Wednesday in PLOS ONE, show male mice that were chronically exposed to alcohol before breeding had male offspring that were less likely to consume alcohol and were more sensitive to its effects, providing new insight into inheritance and development of drinking behaviors.

Previous human studies indicate that alcoholism can run in families, particularly father to son, but to date only a few gene variants have been associated with Alcohol Use Disorder and they account for only a small fraction of the risk of inheriting the problem, said senior investigator Gregg E. Homanics, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and pharmacology & chemical biology, Pitt School of Medicine.

“We examined whether a father’s exposure to alcohol could alter expression of the genes he passed down to his children,” Dr. Homanics said. “Rather than mutation of the genetic sequence, environmental factors might lead to changes that modify the activity of a gene, which is called epigenetics. Our mouse study shows that it is possible for alcohol to modify the dad’s otherwise normal genes and influence consumption in his sons, but surprisingly not his daughters.”

In the study, he and lead author Andrey Finegersh, M.D./Ph.D. student in the Department of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology graduate program, chronically exposed male mice over five weeks to intermittent ethanol vapor, leading to blood alcohol levels slightly higher than the legal limit for human drivers. Then, they mated them to females who had not been exposed to alcohol.

Compared to those of ethanol-free sires, adult male offspring of ethanol-exposed mice consumed less alcohol when it was made available and were less likely to choose to drink it over water. Also, they were more susceptible to alcohol effects on motor control and reduction of anxiety.

“We suspected that the offspring of alcohol exposed sires would have an enhanced taste for alcohol, which seems to be the pattern for humans,” Mr. Finegersh said. “Whether the unexpected reduction in alcohol drinking that was observed is due to differences between species or the specific drinking model that was tested is unclear.”

The researchers plan to examine other drinking models such as binge drinking, identify how alcohol modifies the genes, and explore why female offspring appear unaffected.

The project was funded by grants AA10422 and AA021632 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation Receives $2.5 Million Gift from the Mario Lemieux Foundation to Establish New Lymphoma Center

PITTSBURGH, June 4, 2014Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation announced today that it has received a $2.5 million gift from the Mario Lemieux Foundation to establish a new center for rare and hard-to-treat lymphomas that is expected to benefit children and young adults from around the world.

UPMC will provide matching funds to support the creation of the Mario Lemieux Lymphoma Center for Children and Young Adults at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The center will focus on clinical care as well as laboratory and clinical research surrounding difficult-to-treat childhood lymphomas. It will be led by Linda McAllister-Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Children’s Hospital. She is an internationally recognized expert in lymphoma whose laboratory research has provided new insights into the molecular basis of these types of diseases.

Representatives from the Mario Lemieux Foundation, including Mario Lemieux, joined leaders from Children’s Hospital and its Foundation for today’s announcement. The Mario Lemieux Foundation will donate $2.5 million over seven years, with $2.5 million in matching support from UPMC.

“We are grateful to Mario and Nathalie Lemieux and to the Mario Lemieux Foundation for sharing our vision of a center that capitalizes on our unique expertise to offer hope to a group of patients with a devastating diagnosis,” said Greg Barrett, president, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.

Lymphoma is the third most common type of childhood cancer, and in the United States, more than 1,500 children are diagnosed per year with some form of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. While standardized treatment protocols are used for the majority of pediatric lymphoma cases, currently there is no effective treatment for up to 20 percent of patients.

“I was fortunate to have a type of lymphoma that has proven treatments with good outcomes,” Mario Lemieux said. “I want to create a place of hope for kids and young adults and their families who are diagnosed with lymphomas that have no known cures.”

In addition to the research of Dr. McAllister-Lucas, who has studied rare lymphomas with her husband, Peter Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., since 1999, Ed Prochownik, M.D., Ph.D., and J. Anthony Graves, M.D., Ph.D., both physician scientists within pediatric oncology at Children’s, direct research laboratories investigating the mechanisms that underlie the development of lymphoma. The Lemieux gift will now allow Children’s to also recruit an expert clinical researcher who can coordinate clinical trials of cutting-edge treatments for lymphomas, improving research that can have a global impact on care. In addition, the gift will foster the growth of the hospital’s Survivorship Program to support our patients who survive childhood cancer, the majority of whom have had leukemia and lymphoma.

“Children’s and Pittsburgh already had a strong infrastructure in place to provide treatment for lymphomas and other childhood cancers, including a renowned bone marrow transplant program, a cancer program dedicated to adolescents and young adults, and a close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute,” said Dr. McAllister-Lucas, who joined Children’s and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2012 from the University of Michigan. “The support of the Mario Lemieux Foundation gives us the ability to enhance our basic and clinical research in a way that could lead to improved and potentially new treatments for patients from around the world who currently have very limited options.”

The Mario Lemieux Foundation has been an important supporter of Children’s for many years. The Foundation endowed a fund for pediatric cancer research, has helped to build beautiful spaces within the hospital that help all our patients, including an Austin’s Playroom that is open to all inpatients and offers extended hours, and the Lemieux Sibling Center for young brothers and sisters of patients who have to accompany the family to the hospital, as well as partnered with local Microsoft employees to outfit over 100 inpatient rooms with Xboxes to help distract kids during long hospital stays.

Pitt Public Health Names First Katherine M. Detre Chair in Population Health Science

PITTSBURGH, June 2, 2014 Anne B. Newman, M.D., M.P.H., has been selected as the first Katherine M. Detre Endowed Chair of Population Health Science at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The purpose of this chair is to recruit clinical specialists who are familiar with the methodology of large scale clinical trials to study new therapeutics or novel diagnostic technologies and whether they provide greater value than existing ones.

“An appointment to a named chair is among the highest honors a university can bestow upon a member of its faculty,” said Donald S. Burke, M.D., Pitt Public Health dean and UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair of Global Health. “This appointment recognizes and rewards the quality and impact of Dr. Newman’s work to date, which has earned deep and widespread respect. It also is an expression of our confidence that in the years ahead, she will continue her important contributions to the field of epidemiology, to the University and to the broader society.”

This chair was named after the late Katherine M. Detre, M.D., Dr.P.H., one of the nation’s foremost epidemiologists, particularly noted for her leadership of large-scale clinical studies investigating cardiovascular disease. Dr. Detre was a distinguished professor of epidemiology and founded Pitt Public Health’s Epidemiology Data Center.

“I am so honored to serve the department in Katherine Detre’s name,” said Dr. Newman, who is chair of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology and director of the school’s Center for Aging and Population Health. “She was a mentor and a role model for me and for many young faculty in our department. Dr. Detre was an insightful and creative scientist, and she thoroughly enjoyed her work.”

Internationally known as an expert in aging and public health, Dr. Newman has been a professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health since 2005. Through research and clinical practice, she has shown people how to remain productive, active and healthy as they age.

Dr. Newman is principal investigator of numerous epidemiologic studies and clinical trials exploring differing aspects of aging, including the Health, Aging, and Body Composition Study, the Long Life Family Study, the Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars, the Lifestyle Interventions for Independence in the Elderly study, and the Aspirin to Reduce Events in the Elderly study.

Potential Breast Cancer Drug Performs Well in Early Clinical Trials

CHICAGO, June 1, 2014 – A drug previously studied to improve chemotherapy may be effective in treating patients with cancers related to the BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutations, as well as patients with BRCA-like breast cancers, according to a University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) clinical trial.

The results of the phase I study were presented today at the 50th annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago.

The drug, veliparib (ABT-888), is a PARP inhibitor, which means it lowers the resistance of cancer cells to treatment by targeting the polymerase (PARP) family of enzymes responsible for a wide variety of cellular processes in cancer cells, particularly DNA repair.

“Cancer cells have increased levels of PARP, which we believe may, in part, lead to resistance to chemotherapies and other cancer treatments,” said Shannon Puhalla, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and breast oncologist with UPMC CancerCenter at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. “Tumor cells in patients with BRCA mutations are particularly sensitive to the effects of PARP inhibitors due to underlying DNA repair abnormalities caused by the BRCA mutation. Veliparib can act as personalized medicine for patients with tumors caused by an inherited BRCA mutation, due to this particular sensitivity.”

The study enrolled 60 patients with a BRCA genetic mutation and 28 patients without a mutation. The objectives of the trial included determining how veliparib affected cancer cells and observing how patients responded to the drug.

“We found that veliparib is well-tolerated by patients, with fewer side effects than what can be seen with chemotherapies. In addition, anti-tumor activity was detected in both our BRCA-positive and our BRCA-negative patients,” said Dr. Puhalla.

Dr. Puhalla and a research team at UPCI have been investigating ABT-888 for five years. Their research began in the laboratory and progressed to human clinical trials. Dr. Puhalla currently is leading a phase II clinical trial with ABT-888.

“Many cancer patients with BRCA mutations end up exhausting their treatment options. Veliparib may give them another option.” Dr. Puhalla said.

The study was funded in part by an ASCO career development award Dr. Puhalla received in 2010 and an ASCO translational research professorship received by the late Merrill Egorin, M.D., who co-directed the Molecular Therapeutics and Drug Discovery program at UPCI. This study also is supported by the Pittsburgh-based Frieda G. and Saul F. Shapira BRCA Cancer Research Program and Cancer Fighting Princess.

Three UPMC Experts Named Among Top Sports Knee Surgeons in North America

PITTSBURGH, May 30, 2014 – Three orthopaedic surgeons from UPMC were named in the Top 28 North American Sports Knee Surgeons of 2014 in Orthopedics This Week. Freddie H. Fu, MD, Christopher D. Harner, MD, and Robin V. West, MD were among those selected through a survey of their colleagues throughout North America.

Dr. Fu is David Silver Professor and chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and director of sports medicine at UPMC. He also serves as the head team physician for the University of Pittsburgh Department of Athletics.

Dr. Harner, professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is the medical director of the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine, where he also directs the fellowship program.

Dr. West is an associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine and a team physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For the more information, please view the complete listing of surgeons.

Gastroenterology Experts Present at 2014 Digestive Disease Week

The Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition was well represented in Chicago at the recent Digestive Disease Week annual meeting, DDW 2014. Division research was featured in both oral and poster presentation throughout the week.

There were more than 50 faculty presentations highlighting topics such as pediatric IBD; nausea and vomiting; pancreatic genetics, physiology, and cell biology; and colon cancer screening. Presenters from the division included:

For more information on the presentations at DDW 2014, please visit the conference page.

  • Nijole Pollock

UPMC, Pitt Honors and Presentations Among Highlights at ATS Annual Meeting

PITTSBURGH, May 29, 2014 – Several UPMC and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine experts were honored at the recent American Thoracic Society (ATS) annual meeting in San Diego. For the second year in a row, a study involving UPMC has been published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in conjunction with a presentation at ATS.

Research on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which included work by Frank Sciurba, MD, Division of Pulmonology, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine (PACCM), was featured in NEJM and the study’s findings were highlighted during a late-breaking abstracts session at ATS. Under a grant from the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHLBI), researchers from the United States and Canada found that a therapy of cholesterol-lowering statins fails to improve the health of patients with COPD or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

A second study was published in NEJM and discussed at an ATS news conference. Derek Angus, MD, MPH, Department of Critical Care Medicine, was one of five authors on the study, which found sepsis contributes to as many as half of all U.S. hospital deaths.

During ATS, Recognition Awards for Scientific Accomplishment were presented to Rama Mallampalli, MD, professor of medicine and director, Acute Lung Injury Center at the University of Pittsburgh, and Juan Celedón, MD, chief,  Division of Pediatric Pulmonology, Allergy and Immunology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Dr. Mallampalli was recognized by ATS for his “groundbreaking discoveries in pulmonary cell and molecular biology” and Dr. Celedón for “research on childhood asthma and health disparities in asthma.”

Several other UPMC physicians and researchers served as facilitators, moderators, presenters, or panelists at ATS, including:

For more information about this year’s presentations and awards, visit the ATS conference page.

UPMC Psychiatry Experts Present at 167th APA Meeting

PITTSBURGH, May 15, 2014 – The American Psychiatric Association (APA) 167th Annual Meeting was held this month in New York, N.Y., with attendees from across the United States and more than 50 other countries. Several experts from Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC took part in this year’s meeting, which was focused on improving patient care in the dynamic field of mental health.

Several faculty members presented on various topics, Including:

  • “Methadone and Buprenorphine in Pregnancy,” Shannon Allen, MD
  • “The Making of a CAT for Mental Health Assessment,” Ellen Frank, PhD
  • “Substance Use as A Proximal Risk Factor for Suicidal Behavior in Adolescents With Bipolar Disorder,” Tina Goldstein, PhD
  • “CPT Coding and Documentation Update,” Jeremy Musher, MD
  • “Cultural Competence Revisited: Challenging Diversity Stereotypes,” Joanna Quigley, MD
  • “An FMRI Study of Affective Interference With Cognitive Function in Borderline Personality Disorder,” Paul Soloff, MD
  • “Somatic Symptom and Related Disorders (SSRD) in Children and Adults: A Clinical Approach,” Eva Szigethy, MD, PhD
  • “Cognitive Functioning in Psychotic Major Depression in Late-Life: The Relationship Between Cognitive Functioning and Treatment Response,” Ellen Whyte, MD

In addition David Kupfer, MD, co-directed the master course, “DSM-5: What You Need to Know” and co-chaired “The Future of Psychiatric Measurement.” Dr. Szigethy also chaired “Bootcamp for Burnout: Strategies for Busy Professionals at All Stages and Ages,” and “Meet the Author: Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Children and Adolescents.” Boris Birmaher, MD, received the APF Blanche F. Ittleson Award for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

For more information, and to see the complete listing of presentations, visit the APA Annual Meeting page.

Landmark Clinical Trial Proves Physical Activity Prevents Loss of Mobility in Older Adults

PITTSBURGH, May 27, 2014 – A 20-minute brisk walk around the neighborhood each day could significantly help older adults maintain their ability to walk, according to the results of the longest-running randomized clinical trial evaluating physical activity in the elderly.

The University of Pittsburgh was one of eight field centers that recruited and monitored trial participants. The much-anticipated findings were presented today at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Orlando and concurrently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Doctors have long suspected that maintaining or starting physical activity is important in promoting good health as we age,” said Anne Newman, M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator on the study and chair of Pitt Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “But until this study, we didn’t have the proof necessary to say that daily exercise, sustained over several years, truly can prevent loss of mobility. Doctors can now feel confident that moderate physical activity improves the independence and mobility of older adults.”

Dr. Newman and her fellow investigators, coordinated by Marco Pahor, M.D., director of the University of Florida’s Institute on Aging, obtained those results through the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders, or LIFE study. This study recruited and followed 1,635 sedentary men and women — 216 from Pittsburgh — aged 70 to 89.

Dr. Newman, a geriatrician, supervised the Pittsburgh arm of the LIFE study. For the national study, she chaired the ancillary studies review committee and wrote the outcome procedures for cardiovascular events and the procedures for participant medical clearance at enrollment and for return after illness.

The study showed that prescribed daily physical activity would prevent older adults’ loss of mobility, defined in the study as the inability to walk 400 meters, or about a quarter of a mile. That is approximately equal to a trip from a parked car to a grocery store or a walk through a neighborhood.

Moderate physical activity helped aging adults maintain their ability to walk at a rate 18 percent higher than older adults who did not exercise. It also resulted in a 28 percent reduction in people permanently losing the ability to walk easily.

“This large impact on reducing persistent disability is important,” said Dr. Newman. “Beyond simply maintaining mobility, this shows that we can repair a deficit through physical activity.”

When recruited to the study, participants could walk a quarter mile within 15 minutes, but were at risk for losing that ability. Low physical performance can be a predictor of early death and higher hospitalization rates. Patients with low physical performance are not often recruited to large studies, making it difficult to give research-backed medical recommendations.

“These are people who are patients we see every day. This is why this study is so important: It includes a population that is typically understudied,” said Dr. Pahor.

The participants were randomly sorted into two groups. For two years, the first group walked 150 minutes per week and did strength, flexibility and balance training. Twice each week, they visited field centers, which kept them on track with their exercise. The second group attended health education classes and performed stretching exercises. This phase of the study occurred between February 2010 and December 2013.

Research technicians assessed study participants every six months, checking their ability to walk, their body weight, blood pressure and pulse rate, among other measurements. The staff was not told which participants were assigned to physical activity or to the education classes.

At Pitt, nearly two dozen researchers, students, technicians, nurses and exercise physiologists ensured the trial and data collection ran smoothly. All eight field centers regularly communicated with one another to share tips for encouraging participants to stay in the study.

The researchers noted that there is still a vast amount of data available from the study that needs to be analyzed, including looking at the effects of physical activity on the participants’ cognitive function. The research team also plans to determine how physical activity affected the participants’ physiological, social and biologic factors.

In addition to Pitt and the University of Florida, LIFE study field centers include Northwestern University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Stanford University, Tufts University, Wake Forest University and Yale University.

In Pittsburgh, primary faculty on the LIFE study are Stephanie Studenski, M.D., Ph.D., Bret Goodpaster, Ph.D., Nancy Glynn, Ph.D., and Oscar Lopez, M.D., all of, or formerly of, the University of Pittsburgh.

This research is funded by NIH and National Institute on Aging Cooperative Agreement U01AG22376, and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant no. 3U01AG022376-05A2S.

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